Driving in Korea

Korean drivers, if you didn’t know, aren’t the most safest of drivers.  That’s why I drive super safe lol and at the maximum speed limit – people like to overtake me lol.

I looked around and found a few map applications to use based off of other people’s blog posts about what apps you need in Korea or whatnot, but I found that the SKT’s (a major phone company in Korea, AKA: T World) “T Map” application is the best.  It’s like Google Maps back at home that gives you turn-by-turn navigation.  If Naver’s Map application has it, I have yet to find it – it’s not that user friendly then… I like to think of myself as somewhat technology savvy after all.  Plus, I live in Korea’s countryside so Google just doesn’t do the trick; Naver has accurate maps from what I’ve seen but no navigation, and the directions for public transportation isn’t quite reliable…maybe that is just a language barrier thing though.

In other words:

  1. Be f***ing safe because you can’t trust the drivers around you
  2. Use T Map or another map application from your phone company in Korea, I think each has their own

But who am I to really give advice… Just thought the map info would be extremely useful to prospective drivers in Korea.

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Can’t buy the JR Pass?

You’ve got some sort of long-term visa in Japan and thus ineligible for the JR pass – what are your options?

  • Airplanes
  • Buses
  • Trains

Airplanes
You can use your typical flight arrangement websites to set you up, but if you aren’t made of money then you’ll might want to look into budget airlines in Japan.  This is a news article for 2012 and thus a bit outdated but it comes in handy.  These budget airlines are always providing promotions, sales, and the initial ticket price is usually extremely cheap, and thus difficult to obtain.  It may be worth to subscribe to their promotional emails.

Buses
There are many kinds of buses available to travel within Japan, but I would like to briefly mention just one specific kind for travelers on a budget.  Overnight buses (夜行バス / yakou basu) are generally cheaper than airplane tickets but sometimes budget airline ticket prices are cheaper than these overnight buses.  Many people rely on overnight buses and therefore the prices increase due to that demand and you’ll especially see this for weekends; if you can, it would be best to look to take these overnight buses on Tuesday, Wednesday, and/or Thursday.  Since you’ve probably lived in Japan for some time now, you probably noticed that there are some shops around selling a lot of tickets to crowds of people at a time; these places hold tickets for overnight buses as well!

Trains
Obviously you can pay an arm and a leg for a bullet train (新幹線 / shinkansen) or you can take the normal trains at the respective fixed prices, or you can purchase a Youth 18 Ticket (精神18切符 / seishin jyuuhachi kippu)!  Japan Guide has loads of information on this useful and amazing opportunity.  But to answer a few FAQs that might have popped up into your mind:

  • Anyone can purchase this ticket!  Yes, that includes people younger and older than 18…
  • It costs around 12,000 yen (<$120) and may be used up to 5 times (5 days, once used that day, you can continue using it as much as you want that day without consequence).
  • Only available 3 times a year – corresponds to the school’s vacation periods.
  • You may purchase as many tickets as you want.
  • You may share the ticket with other people.
  • If used at 11pm and then again during the same night at 12am, it will count as TWO times as it resets at midnight – in other words you can use it the same day from 12am to 11:59pm.
  • Can be purchased at any JR office.
  • These tickets are not meant to be inserted into the regular gateways but rather to be inspected by a clerk next to the gateways.
  • This ticket limits you to certain trains, local (普通電車 / futsuu densha) and rapid trains (快速電車 / kaisoku densha).  What does this mean?  It will take longer, sometimes much much longer, to get to your desired destination.  For example it took me 3 full days of traveling from Kyoto (京都) to reach the southern most port city in Hokkaido (北海道), Hakodate (函館).  Also took me the same amount of time from Kyuushuu’s Kagoshima (九州・鹿児島) to Kyoto.

For more information, I would always recommend Japan Guide and Wikitravel.

Getting Around Kyoto, Japan

Planning a trip to Kyoto City?  Pondering how you should get around the city?  Let me break it down for you.

  • Bicycles are easy, cheap, healthy, and the best way to see and get around Kyoto.  Kyoto City is not that large and you can easily get from one point to the other without getting lost.  It is also not that small where you can just simply walk everywhere.  C’mon, experience how it’s like to be a local in Kyoto City and hop onto a bicycle and ride with the wind!
  • Public transportation is largely available, useful and decently priced.  It can be very confusing and overwhelming, especially if you are not used to any other large city’s public transportation systems.  Can be quite costly, but there are various kinds of passes to help you save your money during your trip here.
  • A car is not necessary in Kyoto.  The traffic is not bad so it’s ok if you decide on getting a car, but it really isn’t necessary.  There are many parking lots available; some for a fee, some for free.  Why not spare some gas and hop onto a bicycle and break a sweat!

If I had to paint a picture for you, picture this: you are riding a bicycle through Kyoto, along a river, along a beaten path, breathing the beautiful air, seeing traditional structures, awing at the urban downtown center.  Or, picture yourself staring at maps, checking the internet for directions every hour, getting on the wrong bus/train, transferring at the wrong station, accidentally missing your stop, amongst commuting crowds.  Or, you can also picture yourself seeing Kyoto from the other side of a window on a road/street rather than on the sidewalks, riversides, etc.

There you go!  How to get around Kyoto City in a nutshell.  A more detailed post on Kyoto’s modes of transportation is on the way!

5 Bicycle Tips (Kyoto, Japan) Part 1

There’s no doubt that the best transportation option for getting around Kyoto is by a bicycle!

For that purpose, here are 5 tips to keep in mind.

  1. You obviously do not need a license to ride a bicycle, but what you do need is to register your bicycle when purchasing it either new or second-handedly.
  2. If there are no bicycle lanes on the sidewalks, ride on the side closest to the street.  Remember that the traffic is the opposite way so try to pass on the right.
  3. You are legally required to stay on the left side of the streets.  You may notice many Japanese do not exactly obey this, but I recommend trying your best to.
  4. Bicycles are legally treated as vehicles therefore the penalties are graver than you would imagine.  Thus, it’s best if you obeyed the lights and other traffic regulations.
  5. You cannot park your bicycle just anywhere you wish.  Bicycles are a huge part of the Kyoto lifestyle and therefore there are places to avoid parking your bicycle at so as to maximize traffic flow and minimize accidents.  These no parking or no standing spots are clearly marked by signs so be sure to double-check the area before deciding to park your bike there.  If you do happen to park in such a spot, the police may confiscate it and transport it elsewhere.  If you were that unlucky, check the nearest no parking sign to check where the location is and head there to pick it up.  You will be fined at least $20.  I heard that some places where you can rent bicycles from reimburse you, but you should re-confirm that before renting and relying on that piece of info.

And that’s it for now!  Look forward to the following 5 tips as I’m sure there will be at least 5 more!

In the meantime, what do you think about the bicycle registration regulation in Japan?  Do you think it’s ridiculous?  Let me know!